Teachers and Technology in Education

Learning, PreK-12

Curt Allen is CEO of Agilix Labs Inc, a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner and leader in learning empowerment solutions for K-12 students, their teachers and families. Agilix powers Buzz, a learning empowerment toolbox that allows teachers to hover less and coach more as it provides personalized support for students in a blended learning environment.

Curt has loads of experience observing classrooms and watching powerful learning in action. Not only does he have 5 children of his own, but he spends a lot of his time working with district leaders and educators to develop solutions for personalized learning classrooms. He values the role that technology plays in the next generation of learning (as is clear in his career choice), BUT he also understands the unparalleled value of quality teachers. Below, he reflects on his own education experience and the relationship between education technology and teachers.

Curt Allen

In August, the Agilix team had the honor of launching Buzz, a learning solution built specifically for students and the teachers who guide them. Our whole creative process was driven by our overriding goal: to empower learning by enhancing the essential relationship between teachers and their students. That’s it. As a team, we’re convinced that education technology, as it becomes more powerful and sophisticated, will miss the mark unless it keeps that core purpose in mind. In our view, teachers should not be replaced by technology; they should be empowered by it.

As I reflect on my own education growing up, I can name one teacher after another who had a positive, memorable impact on my life. When you consider I can barely remember where I put my car keys on a given day, it’s amazing that I can recall names of teachers from 40 years ago because they took a personal interest in me and inspired me to apply myself to the process of becoming a better person.

I remember Ethel Butler, who arranged for a group of my kindergarten classmates and me to fly in an airplane.  However brief it was, the time I spent in the co-pilot’s seat with the yoke in my hands made me fall in love with flying.  I remember John Crandall, who managed a fruit orchard to make ends meet on his teacher’s salary and used examples from that world to enhance our lessons.  I remember Leonard “Dale” Braithwaite, who constantly encouraged me in math class, going so far as to name a novel algebra technique I devised “the Curt Allen Method.” I’ll never forget Phyllis Bestor, who not only inspired me to love literature but also modeled service to others and the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs. While Garland Fitzgerald was teaching my teammates and me to love soccer, it turns out he was pushing larger agenda: of teamwork and sacrifice for others.

While my memories of names, faces and experience are clear, my recall of the content they taught is, to say the least, hazy. However, I’ll never forget how each of these great teachers made me feel in their classes.  Their hard work and preparation were essential, but their personal concern for each of their students made the difference and left a lasting impression on me. Forever in debt to their investment in me, I work to pay it forward by supporting their successors in the classroom.

As those teachers plow through the mountains of available education technology solutions, it can be difficult to find which one exactly fulfills that purpose of enhancing the teacher-student relationship. Many Learning Management Systems (LMS) are more like a file cabinet with a calendar while others seemingly aspire to replace the teacher. In the blended learning environments that exist in today’s classrooms, better support is needed so that teachers can apply their full attention to each student, offering personalized attention and building those mentoring relationships that are both necessary and memorable.

That is why we built Buzz the way we did. We not only wanted to help teachers use the diverse information that characterizes the life and learning of each student, we wanted to do it in a way that freed them up to go home at the end of the day and catch their breath.

So Agilix will continue to advocate for the essential elements of a new paradigm in education technology. We want to support, not replace teachers. We want to enhance their professional advancement as they develop the young minds in their care. We want to help them prepare better, counsel with peers better and take objective measures of their students’ unique abilities and special needs. We want to be responsive to their preferences, whether they teach from a traditional, personalized, blended or project-based style. At the bottom line, we want to help teachers connect with students in accurate, responsive and, most of all, encouraging ways.

Energized, encouraged teachers cultivate inspired learners and we’re proud to play a role in that process because a great teacher can change a student’s life forever. As we equip them and empower their students to learn, we hope to foster an entire new generation of thinkers, learners and innovators who will make the world an even better place.

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Curt Allen is the CEO of Agilix Labs, Inc., follow him on twitter @CurtAllen.

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